Difficult call to make, Portia
Five weeks ago, the PNP was counting 37 seats and was already singing its song of victory. Then, two weeks later, it was down to 35.
It is my understanding that based on recent polling, the PNP has identified 30 seats as 'safe'; five are at 50 per cent; and seven are trending JLP. It is still my view that in a dead-heat situation, the PNP would use its organisational machinery to beat the JLP in a general election.
Sources have shown me snippets of polling information (incomplete for me to make added comments) that indicate that Eastern St Thomas, East Rural St Andrew, South East St Mary, and Eastern St Andrew are polling at dead-heat situations.
Those same sources indicate over 50 per cent for the JLP in Western St Mary, Central St James, West Central St James, Eastern Hanover, and South West St Elizabeth. They are indicating a bruising battle, where I believe the PNP would need to bring out the full strength of its much-vaunted machinery to actually win.
What will not help that party is the hangover of disgruntlement between Comrades in constituencies where recent selections became quite nasty.
An obvious positive for the PNP is the JLP's decision to cancel its annual conference due for November 21-22. No political party, which is strong, that has its electoral machinery up and running and is well funded would not want to rally the troops at an annual conference.
What this conference cancellation tells me is that the JLP has not been getting the level of funding that it had hoped to get. Certainly the JLP ought to know that the PNP will read those very indicators into the equation.
In my constituency, West Rural St Andrew, many PNP supporters are quite lukewarm on member of parliament, the PNP's Paul Buchanan, but his best bet, I believe, will be the presence of the JLP's Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, who is still miles from even a primary understanding of political campaigning.
The prime minister has never given the nation the impression that she is a good decision maker, and she does vacillate even when she finally makes a decision on something. In 2006, in the Trafigura scandal, the PM hid from the nation and took 10 days to respond.
When she finally responded to the minister of health's refusal to accept responsibility for the dead babies scandal and fall on his sword, all she did, apart from expressing words and not using her well-known passion in doing so, was to give the minister another shot at job security.
It is my understanding that only one senior minister is with her on her wanting to delay the elections. But delay it until when?
Delay gives the JLP the needed time to close its case to funders. And slowly, the nation is becoming aware that the rush to early elections has a reason attached to it.
Early next year, as thousands of civil servants lose their jobs under the 'public sector transformation', any government under whose watch the cut was made will lose the next election very badly.
Paul Burke and
his ball of confusion
There is no doubt in my mind that PNP General Secretary Paul Burke is a highly intelligent man, and yet in his handling of many matters at constituency level, the impression left during and after his involvement is that at times he lacks the will to bring order to the scrum of the 'democratic process'.
In North East St Elizabeth, supporters of both protagonists who were seeking the right to represent the seat - Pryce and Redmond - were at times on the verge of waging pitched battle against each other. Many thought that the better man, Raymond Pryce, lost out in the end, but such is politics. There is still a bitter taste in the mouth of PNP supporters in that western seat as many believe the PNP secretariat was useless.
The nation also saw the fiasco in East Rural St Andrew as another performer MP, Damion Crawford, was booted by delegates for an unknown named Peter Blake. Quite apart from the delegates opting to see the return of a more 'traditional' MP, one got the sense that the PNP secretariat was in a more reactive than proactive mood.
Then for some reason, quite justified I believe, Blake was asked to back down by the PNP secretariat. This, many saw as a backward way of doing things. Then enters Imani Duncan-Price, daughter of PNP firebrand of the 1970s D.K. Duncan. The picture in East Rural will soon shine brightly.
If East Rural St Andrew was a fiasco, then the PNP selection and ratification race in the East Portland seat was tragi-comedy. First, the quite lacklustre MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield lost in a selection to the energetic Andrea Moore, and then, voilà! Moore was out and Bloomfield was back in. Really, Mr Burke?
The coup de grâce in the PNP secretariat's failure had to be in South East St Ann, where the still embattled MP Lisa Hanna had a rough time in a justified insurgency against her. Towards the end, Councillor Lydia Richards still maintained that the delegates' list was flawed and she could not run on it. The PNP secretariat admitted that the list had flaws.
When Richards withdrew from the contest on that basis, the PNP secretariat went ahead without her, but for good measure, announced that a selection had been held and Hanna had 'trounced' Richards when, in fact, no one competed against Hanna.
Not good enough, Mr Burke. If those constituency hiccups were not enough, the PNP general secretary now finds that his party cannot afford to delay the election while it is still unsure about its true strength in holding early elections. What sage advice will Burke now give to the PM and Peter Phillips?
Tufton's in, but
at what price?
Towards the end of September, Dr Christopher Tufton failed to secure his bid to run on the JLP ticket in the West Central St Catherine seat. With the veteran Dr Ken Baugh bowing out, Tufton was edged out, by a mere 15 delegate votes, by councillor for the Point Hill division Devon Wint, someone nowhere near as respected and known nationally as Tufton.
Now it seems that fate has been kind to the man who many see as the next leader of the JLP, but in a most perverse fashion. Wint was last Thursday removed by the JLP hierarchy over allegations of misconduct. Those allegations will take on a life of their own at the national level even as Tufton getting a seat considered safe for the JLP should yield positives for the JLP.
A delicate sociopolitical and electoral balancing act is at play. At the best of times, the present JLP leader, Andrew Holness, has been considered only half as good as what Tufton would be as the standard-bearer for the JLP's causes.
The saving grace for Holness is that with the PNP in disarray in many areas and the prime minister in doubt about the electoral strength of the PNP going into an early election, even JLP MPs, who months ago wanted to see the back of Holness, are now circling his wagon, no longer with the intention of scalping him, but to offer him needed support.
At the time of writing this column, Tufton has not officially been ratified in the seat, but I expect it to be a mere formality and many disgruntled JLP supporters will be happy to see Tufton in West Central St Catherine or any other safe seat.
Although the JLP still cannot consider itself odds-on favourite to win the next election, overall its chances have been improved as recent polls have shown a dead-heat situation along with a significant percentage of general disgruntlement against the ruling PNP.
It was always thought that Tufton was the mender of fences and the voice of reason in a party where the disparate voices and the independent directions of its hierarchy were threatening to tear the JLP apart up to a few months ago. Also existing as a valid viewpoint among the electorate was what some perceived as Holness' behind-the-scenes actions in denying Tufton a seat even if hard evidence to support that was not available.
I have always found Dr Tufton to be a level-headed man. I interviewed him while he was minister of agriculture in the JLP administration of 2007-2011, and the character traits that I immediately picked up as present in him were humility and firmness.
He did not display the sort of arrogance that newly minted ministers of government tend to dish out in buckets.